Editorial: A loathsome disease

Jewish Light Editorial

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, as the enormity of the Holocaust became well-known worldwide, vigorous steps were taken in West Germany to make sure that the views of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party would “never again” be spread through Europe. Publication of “Mein Kampf,” Hitler’s memoir in which he set forth his plans to render Germany and Europe “free of Jews,” was prohibited.

Yet just last month came a quiet announcement that for the first time, a publisher in Germany received permission to print a German-language edition of Hitler’s book. Though we don’t advocate limits on pure speech, what this decision symbolizes in reintroducing Hitler into the commerce of ideas in Germany could not come at a worse time.

According to news reports and an alarming series of reports issued by the Anti-Defamation League, things are deteriorating throughout Europe. Both neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist political parties are taking root and winning seats in parliaments in several European nations, and there has been an alarming uptick in the most virulent strains of anti-Semitism in recent months:

• In Hungary, the neo-Nazi Jobbik Party has won several seats in the parliament, and anti-Semitic statements have been made on the floor of the legislative body.  In the most recent example reported by The Economist magazine, MP Marton Gyongyosi of the Jobbik Party said during a parliamentary debate that “it is high time to assess how many MPs and government members are of Jewish origin and who present a national security risk to Hungary.” JTA reports that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has strongly condemned Gyongyosi’s speech and the spike in anti-Semitism in Hungary, and many mainstream politicians have shown their support for the Jewish community.

• In Greece, which for months has been teetering on the verge of economic collapse, the blatantly neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party has gained sets in the parliament. Golden Dawn members deny the Holocaust, wear shirts emblazoned with a symbol that is openly modeled on the Nazi swastika and give the outstretched arm Nazi-Fascist salute.  In a bizarre twist, a representative of the party has been named to the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The party now controls 18 seats in Greece’s 300-seat parliament, making it Greece’s third largest party.

• France, as reported by Andrew Srulevictch, director of European Affairs for the ADL, “is once again facing radicals with a lethal hatred of Jews.” He reports on statistics from the French Jewish Security Agency, SPCJ, which indicate hate incidents are up 45 percent in the first eight months of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011. And SPCJ’s latest report notes that ‘in recent months, the actions are becoming more violent,’ with four homicides and 56 assaults.”

• In Vienna, Austria, according to a JTA report, protesters reportedly called out “death to the Jews” at a demonstration near the Austrian chancellor’s office. About 400 people took part in the demonstration on Nov. 30, according to reports by the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism, an international organization, and Juedische.at, an Austrian-Jewish news site. The demonstrators chanted “Kill the Jews” and “Destroy Israel.” The report said the Viennese police did not intervene in the procession.

• Even in Scandinavia, which during the Holocaust was steadfastly protective of its Jews, anti-Semitism has taken root. In Sweden, large swastikas twice were scrawled on several doors belonging to two separate Jewish homes in Malmo, according to a report in Sydsvenskan, a local daily newspaper. One of the homes was broken into, and a computer and Judaica were stolen, including a Star of David, a mezuzah and a hanukkiah. Similar incidents have been reported in Helsinki, Finland, where an individual was recorded shouting “Heil Hitler” while performing a Nazi salute outside the city’s Jewish Community Center.

• An 2012 ADL survey of 5,000 adults in 10 European countries found that anti-Semitic attitudes remain “at disturbingly high levels,” with large swaths of the population subscribing to classical anti-Semitic notions as Jews having too much power in business, being more loyal to Israel than their own country or “talking too much” about what happened during the Holocaust.

The findings demonstrate that much more needs to be done to respond to the return of the dark shadow of the swastika. Persistent vigilance, with public reporting of all incidents, is essential in exposing such hatred. Support for programs such as those offered by the ADL is critical. European governments must act to both educate their citizens and forcefully punish perpetrators of hateful violence. And our own United States must remain a shining beacon against hatred and intolerance toward Jews, both at home and abroad.Nothing less is acceptable.